Ed Mell takes Purchase Award at Autry Museum ‘Masters of the American West’ 2021

Contemporary Western art is here.

I know. I know.

You have heard that before. 

Like the past 40-plus years before.

This time is different, I swear.

Proof can be found by examining what happened at the Autry Museum in Southern California the first week of March, 2021. It’s a trend I’ve noticed developing over the past few years.

Kevin Red Star’s Strikes the Enemy (2018)

The Autry Museum was co-founded in 1988 by Jackie and Gene Autry and Joanne and Monte Hale. Its mission statement reads, “The Autry brings together the stories of all the peoples of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inspire our shared future.”

The museum is located roughly ten miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles if you take “the I5” towards Griffith Park.  If you pass the Ventura Freeway, you have gone too far.

Its annual exhibition, “Masters of the American West,” begins every February and runs the throughout the spring. The exhibition features many of the top Western artists in painting and sculpture. The event is high on my list of events to attend in the near future.

It is currently underway through April 11, 2021. The event is being held entirely online this year due to the pandemic.

Ed Mell takes Autry Museum purchase award 2021

Earlier this week, the Autry Museum selected Ed Mell’s Cascading Canyon Storm as the 2021 “Chrystina and James R Park Trustees’ Purchase Award,” winner in its “Masters of the American West” exhibition.

Ed Mell (b. 1942) is a contemporary Western artist well known for his vivid colors and sharp, crisp, jagged lines depicting landscapes and characters of the American Southwest. My wife and I think Ed Mell’s work is some of the best anywhere, regardless of genre, by a living artist. In fact, two days ago, she asked me when we were going to add one of his paintings to our collection. 

The museum purchase award is one of my favorite awards. It means the museum is:

  • Actively collecting work by a living artist
  • Analyzing its collection
  • Verifying it continues measuring up with the institution’s mission
  • Addressing possible gaps in the collection
  • Telling us what direction it sees the museum collection headed

If you add Ed Mell’s Cascading Canyon Storm with the past three other purchase award winners: Tony Abeyta’s New Formations (2020), Thomas Blackshear II Wild West Show (2019), and Kevin Red Star’s Strikes the Enemy (2018), it makes a strong statement that the future is wide open for the contemporary Western art market.

Thomas Blackshear II, Wild West Show (2019)

And that future should start now.

I would like to see major galleries and other museums join the Autry by adding more contemporary artists to their collections, exhibitions and showroom floors.

The artists are out there. I see them every day on Instagram creating amazing works, but online is not good enough. They need premier spaces to exhibit their work in real life.

Collectors and visitors will follow.

Well, maybe not all the current collectors. Some might, but more importantly, new collectors, buyers and Western art fans will be created as new voices are added to what’s known as “Western” art. These are the people who will be responsible for carrying the genre into the future.

Finally, once-and-for-all, make the dreams of those visionaries of the 1980’s who saw a wider Western art world a 21st century reality.

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